Rupert Pupkin Speaks: INDICATOR - THE BIG HEAT and EXPERIMENT IN TERROR on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, April 22, 2017


THE BIG HEAT (1953; Fritz Lang)
I first discovered this movie the same way I came across many great cinematic works - through Danny Peary. In this case, he included the film in the amazing second volume of his "Cult Movies" book series. Because I love Danny and his writing, I must quote an excerpt from his writings about the film:
"Like Robert Aldrich's KISS ME DEADLY (1955), Fritz Lang's THE BIG HEAT is a transitional film that links the hard-hitting expose films of the fifties (which were foreshadowed in 1948 by Abraham Polonsky's FORCE OF EVIL), and film noir, the dominant style of forties melodrama. True, Lang's film doesn't have the entangled relationships, the femme fatale who leads an unsuspecting hero down the wayward path, or the low-key photography that were hallmarks of film noir. But while it cooly surveys the the all-inclusive political/police corruption of a small city, it is equally concerned with the corruption of a decent man's soul. This is pure film noir. So is the film's pervading pessimism; it's ferocious violence; its lone hero in a corruptive universe; its hero making but one mistake - underestimating his opposition (as much as they do him) - from which there is no recovery; and, most importantly, its intertwining traits: fatalism and paranoia".
I am personally a big believer in fatalism being one of the key elements of true film noir. The stock characters, the lighting and the other bits of the puzzle all take a back seat to fatalism for me. It is movies like THE BIG HEAT, OUT OF THE PAST and DETOUR that I learned this from. I really do feel like it is an essential component and take issue with some films being lumped into noir if they are lacking fatalism. That said, THE BIG HEAT is on of those movies that has it at its core and never shakes it off. Dave Bannion is a good cop with a nice family, but his sense of idealism and the true justice and protection that a police department should be able to bring the the general public is problematic. It's problematic in that he himself finds the corruption he's seen evidence of to be too much and he decides to become a one man crusader against the city's biggest local criminal kingpin. Bannion's fatalism comes not from him being a loser who keeps getting himself in with the wrong folks (like Mitchum in OUT OF THE PAST or Tom Neal in DETOUR). Noir has told lots of stories of losers who can't get out of their own way and end up sabotaging themselves - often to death. Bannion's sense of right and his feelings of obligation to stand up to those who oppose that right is his fatal flaw. As Peary mentions above, he underestimates the bad guy here and it costs him. But what I love about THE BIG HEAT is that Bannion just keeps on coming. He's like a tenacious dog whose broken his leash and now wants to tear into those he thinks have wronged him. He won't be stopped by the bureaucratic chain of command that holds back his superiors. He may find that his pursuit of justice doesn't ultimately solve his woes, but for the time being it's invigorating to watch him take on the crooks who think they can control a small town with fear. One of Bannion's fellow cops tells him that, "No man is an island", but Bannion has to learn that for himself and it makes for a tense and crackling film noir. A noir that has some of my favorite lines of dialogue in the genre. I won't spoil them here, but Glenn Ford has some gems and this is probably my favorite performance from him. On top of Ford (and the film doesn't need anything else), it also has a young Lee Marvin in a memorable role as well as a great turn from Gloria Grahame. Marvin is perhaps most remembered in this movie because of an act of violence he perpetrates on Grahame.
The whole film is a meditation on revenge and how the person seeking vengeance can easily become obsessed and begin to take on the traits of those that they are trying to retaliate against. It's one of those movies that is engaging and powerful in that it makes the viewer complicit in the acts of revenge that are being sought and yet it really just violence met by more violence. One is left feeling catharsis, but not necessarily complete closure.

• High Definition remaster
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary by film historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman
• Tony Rayns on Fritz Lang and 'The Big Heat' (2017, 34 mins): a newly filmed appreciation and analysis by the film historian
• Martin Scorsese on The Big Heat (2009, 6 mins)
• Michael Mann on The Big Heat (2009, 11 mins)
• Isolated score: experience Henry Vars' original soundtrack music
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by critic Glenn Kenny, an archival interview with Fritz Lang, a critical anthology, and a look at the film's Production Code history
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 5,000 copies

Buy THE BIG HEAT on Blu-ray from Indicator here:

EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962; Blake Edwards)
Director Blake Edwards has a quite varied filmography. He is certainly most well-known for his comedies, but even a western or two in his day. EXPERIMENT IN TERROR is one of the only thrillers he ever made and it's an interesting entry. This is one of those films that must have been profoundly disturbing to audiences back in 1962. The way that Lee Remick is terrorized by the psychopath in this movie still has an edge to it even now. Remick plays a bank teller who becomes the focus of a nutjob who wants her to steal $100,000 from her place of work for him. To convince her, he menaces her with threatening phone calls (in a raspy, asthmatic voice - makes him sound even creepier), murder of people she talks to about the plan and even the kidnapping of her sister. The tie-in between this film and THE BIG HEAT is Glenn Ford, who plays an FBI agent that is hot on the trail of the psycho and does his best to track him via the specific sound of his voice (in an old-fashioned 1960s procedural kind of way).
The film was shot in and around San Francisco, so there is lots of nice location work using places like Fisherman's Wharf as a backdrop. There's a thrilling climactic chase scene through Candlestick Park during a San Francisco Giants game that is a pretty solid and memorable way to wrap things up. 

• 4K restoration from the original negative
• Original mono audio
• Alternative 5.1 surround sound track
• Audio commentary by film critic Kim Morgan
• All By Herself: Stefanie Powers on 'Experiment in Terror' (2017, 19 mins): new and exclusive filmed interview with the actress
• Isolated score: experience Henry Mancini's original score
• Theatrical trailers
• TV spots
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited edition exclusive 32-page booklet with a new essay by film critic Kim Morgan, and a new examination of the secret FBI files dedicated to screenwriters The Gordons by Jeff Billington
• UK Blu-ray premiere
• Limited Dual Format Edition of 3,000 copies

Buy EXPERIMENT IN TERROR on Blu-ray from Indicator here:

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